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Sichuan cracker project starts

PETROCHINA has started building a 2.5-million-ton-per-year catalytic cracker as well as several other units in Sichuan Province, part of the largest refining and chemical complex in southwestern China.

China's second-largest refiner aims to start civil engineering works, complete underground works and finish placing orders for key equipment within the year, according to the Website of CNPC, PetroChina's parent.

PetroChina halted the 200,000-barrel-per-day refining and 800,000-ton-per-year ethylene project in Pengzhou City last year after an earthquake in the west part of Sichuan killed more than 80,000 people and destroyed numerous industrial and civil facilities.

The National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning ministry, gave the project the go-ahead and PetroChina planned full-scale construction this year.

PetroChina did not say when construction would be completed or how much was needed for the project, which was previously estimated to cost 40 billion yuan (US$5.9 billion) and scheduled to be ready in 2010, a target date which now seems unfeasible.

The refinery was supposed to process crude oil pumped from northwestern China's Xinjiang region and Kazakhstan via a planned pipeline.

China has put several new and big refineries into operation this year after repeated delays and will add more capacity in coming months, at a time when fuel demand growth slowed in the wake of the global financial crisis.

But additional refining capacity is expected to be limited next year based on both the number and construction progress of existing projects.

The National Energy Administration set a goal to raise the country's refining capacity to 440 million tons, or 8.8 million bpd, by 2011 by building new refineries and expanding some existing plants.


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